De-Colonizing Christ Art Exhibit Considers Racial Justice

Beginning September 12, 2021, the Riverfront Gallery at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Cathedral in Harrisburg will host a juried visual arts exhibit named De-Colonizing Christ. Developed locally by a collaborative group of artists and community leaders, the exhibit explores the identity of Jesus of Nazareth by inviting artists to portray him as a man who does not have the familiar Caucasian complexion. There are 28 original artworks, plus a dozen on loan from private collections.

Recent events have opened conversations among churches, theologians, and biblical scholars, considering in what way the western portrayal of Jesus as a European has been used to marginalize people of color. Many suggest that the pursuit of racial justice demands the exploration of ways in which we can de-colonize the Christ – releasing the image of Jesus from a legacy of White Supremacy and exploring images of Jesus as a man of color. This exhibit invites the Central Pennsylvania community into the conversation.

Two cash prizes have been awarded by the Jury. Brian Behm, of Chapel Hill, NC, was awarded Best in Show for his work “Pantocrator in Black and Brown.”  Lori Sweet, of Harrisburg, was awarded the Bishops’ Prize for her work “The Healer.” In December, one additional cash prize will be awarded by vote of those who attend the exhibit: the Peoples’ Favorite.

During the exhibit season, there will be three lectures on topics related to racial justice. All are free and open to the public.

On September 12 at 2 pm, renowned scholar and artist Steve Prince, Artist-in-residence at the College of William and Mary, will discuss “The Arts, Justice and Faith: The Role of a Holy Imagination.”   

On October 17 at 2 pm, Dr. Drew G.I. Hart, Assistant Professor of Theology at Messiah University, will discuss “White Jesus: Mangling Christianity and the Birth of White Supremacy in the West.”

On November 28 at 2 pm, The Rev. Dr. Catherine Williams, Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lancaster Theological Seminary, will discuss the tension inherent in inclusive worship in predominantly white congregations.

This exhibit is supported by a generous grant from the Arts for All Partnership, a partnership between the Cultural Enrichment Fund and the Greater Harrisburg Community Foundation, a regional foundation of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities.